With the conclusion of the regular season, it’s time to look back and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Here are the democratically-selected thoughts of The 33rd Team based on our analytics and scouting information:
BEST COACHING HIRE – Nick Sirianni, HC, Philadelphia Eagles (6 votes)
Others receiving votes: Brandon Staley (5), Dan Quinn (1), Dan Campbell (1), Shane Steichen (1)
It was a tough call between Eagles HC Nick Sirianni and Chargers HC Brandon Staley. Both teams have improved significantly under new leadership. However, Sirianni grabbed the edge for leading his team to the playoffs in what many considered a rebuilding year for Philly. If the Chargers would have won (or tied) in Sunday Night Football, this award might have gone to Staley. However, Staley decided to take his timeout instead and Sirianni gets the nod, but all Philly will care about is that their team will be playing this weekend.
BEST POSITION COACH – Adam Stenavich, OL Coach, Green Bay Packers (4 votes)
Others receiving votes: Jeff Stoutland (3), Troy Walters (2), Jerry Gray (2), Kris Richard (1), Kris Kocurek (1), Al Golden (1)
After getting two All-Pro and two Pro Bowl performances in his unit in 2020 (three total players), Stenavich was forced to get inventive in 2021 due to a series of departures and injuries that saw neither All-Pro return and only OG Lucas Patrick still starting 16 games later. The result? The 8th-most EPA/rush, the sixth-fewest sacks allowed, and the 7th-lowest pressure rate en route to the NFC’s top seed. Stenavich’s work should not be undervalued.
BEST TRANSACTION – Signing CB Rasul Douglas in October, Green Bay Packers (3)
Others receiving votes: Trey Hendrickson signing (2), Cordarelle Patterson signing (2), Dak Prescott extension (1), De’Vondre Campbell signing (1), Matt Judon (1)
An early theme, the Packers were hit hard by injuries this season but found an unlikely contributor in the oft-discarded Douglas. The former third-rounder was on his 6th team since September 2020, but hit the ground running and was starting 85% of defensive snaps only 11 days after signing, breaking up the 7th-most passes with the second-most INTs since his week 6 debut. He would have been worth it solely for sealing the win over Arizona, but he’s continued to make impact plays that have won games.
MOST VALUABLE DRAFT PICK – LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys (7)
Others receiving votes: Mac Jones (3), Ja’Marr Chase (2), Nate Hobbs (1)
Even when accounting for positional value, Micah Parsons has clearly been the most valuable draft pick this season. His transition to EDGE has been seamless, and in the process, he has dominated as a pass rusher. Parsons finished the regular season with 13 sacks, the most of any rookie. His pressure rate of 22.4% is the highest of any player with at least 200 pass rushing snaps.
MOST VALUABLE LATE-ROUND DRAFT PICK – OG Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (8)
Others receiving votes: Nate Hobbs (3), Elijah Mitchell (2)
The lasting image of the 2020 season was Patrick Mahomes running for his life in a devastating Super Bowl loss. With the team deciding on a full rebuild at the position, they must have been ecstatic to see Smith fall to the sixth round and their final selection due to injury concerns. In short, he’s played more snaps than any other OL in the league for a team allowing the fourth-fewest sacks.
BEST UDFA – CB Jerry Jacobs, Detroit Lions (5)
Others receiving votes: Jaret Patterson (4), Jake Curhan (2), Jack Stoll (1), Isaiah Dunn (1)
With a backstory befitting of a feature-length movie, Jacobs was the youngest of five and without both parents by age 11 before redshirting his first year in community college and earning a transfer to Arkansas State, where he tore his ACL. Upsetting his coach by transferring to rival Arkansas, where he opted out midseason with another injury, Jacobs’ 5-10 size and 4.53 speed made him an uphill battle just to survive a workout. But when starters Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu got hurt, Jacobs seized a starting role and refused to concede it, starting 9 games and forcing 6 incompletions as PFF’s third-best rookie CB over that span before tearing his other ACL. If his past has shown us anything, he’ll be back.
MOST EFFICIENT FA SIGNING – LB De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers (5)
Others receiving votes: Cordarrelle Patterson (2), Matt Judon (1), Chidobe Awuzie (1), James Conner (1), Kendrick Bourne (1), Trey Hendrickson (1), Kyle Van Noy/Jamie Collins (1)
Campbell has had his moments since being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Minnesota, but after “graduating” from the Falcons and not being retained after a year in the desert, he’s been nothing short of a revelation in Green Bay. Racking up at least 4 tackles each game, he’s truly filled the stat sheet for a defense in need of superstars – 2 INTs, 5 PDs, 2 FFs, 6 TFLs, 2 sacks. Not bad for a June 1yr/$2M deal with only $1.1M guaranteed and four whole void years.
WORST FA SIGNING – WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants (9)
Others receiving votes: JJ Watt (1), Bud Dupree (1), Ahkello Witherspoon (1), Rayshawn Jenkins (1)
The Lions decided not to franchise tag Kenny Golladay, letting him walk for only a compensatory pick in return. At the time, it seemed they could get more than a pick at the end of the third round in a trade. It doesn’t seem like that anymore. The Giants gave Golladay a 4 year deal worth $72M, which ties him with Tyreek Hill for the 6th highest paid WR based on APY. Unlike Hill, Golladay has decidedly not been worth the price tag. Known for winning at the catch point, he didn’t catch a single TD this year.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Seattle Seahawks (3)
Others receiving votes: Browns (2), Allen Robinson (2), Baker Mayfield (2), Trevor Lawrence (2), Robert Saleh’s Defense (1), Urban Meyer (1), Kadarius Toney (1)
The Seahawks finished with a 7-10 record, marking their first losing season since 2011. They also made the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons. Their roster has not been able to overcome trading two first round picks (in addition to other later picks) for Jamal Adams. Russell Wilson also missed games for the first time in his career. The question now is whether he will be playing for Seattle in 2022…
BEST TRADE – New York Jets send Sam Darnold to Carolina for a ’21 6th and ’22 2nd– and 4th-round picks (3)
Other’s receiving votes: Rams trade for Stafford (2), Panthers trade for Gilmore (2), Giants trade down in draft (2), Chiefs trade for Ingram (1), Eagles trade down in draft (1), Raiders trade for Perryman (1), Rams trade for Michel (1), Cardinals trade for Ertz (1)
When it became clear the Jets were going to select a QB in the draft, it was difficult to foresee them getting anything substantial for Sam Darnold in a trade. According to basically any metric, Darnold was among the very worst QBs in the NFL. Yet, Joe Douglas agreed to trade the former USC QB to Carolina for a 2021 sixth-round pick and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. Perhaps the Panthers thought he would play better with superior coaching and offensive personnel, but it hasn’t worked out for them. Compounding the trade mistake, they picked up his fifth-year option (he will make $18,858,000 in 2022).